Courtesy photo: Riverhead Community Awareness Program

The Riverhead Peacemakers will receive the United for Kindness award from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center on May 22, 2019 at PACER’s National Unity Awards ceremony in Bloomington, Minnesota.

According to PACER, this award is a “celebration of those helping to create a world without bullying – whether it’s building awareness of bullying prevention, inspiring and empowering others to take positive action or advocating for those that need support.” Nominations come from across the country.

“On behalf of the Riverhead Peacemakers and Riverhead Community Awareness Program, we are honored to be recognized by PACER for being United in Kindness,” said Shannon Kutner, Riverhead CAP elementary school social worker. Kutner coordinates the Peacemakers groups in both Roanoke Avenue and Phillips Avenue elementary schools.

“Congratulations to the Riverhead Peacemakers on receiving the 2019 United for Kindness Award. We appreciate all the hard work they have put into this important issue and are excited to recognize their efforts at the Unity Awards,’” PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center coordinator Bailey Huston said.

The Riverhead Peacemakers are a fourth grade student-led anti-bullying movement. Morgan Dunn, now a ninth-grader, started the group in Roanoke Avenue Elementary School in 2012. Morgan was determined to stop bullying and approached principal Tom Payton to approve the idea for the club. As a result, the group became a real presence in the life of the school. Their message is: “Speak up, don’t be a bystander, forgive others, accept others for their differences, include others, seek help if you need it, and we can make a difference.” The fourth-graders at Phillips Avenue Elementary School also adopted this student movement.

The Peacemakers in both schools meet with Kutner during recess to discuss ways to prevent and reduce bullying in their schools. They begin the school year by reading “The Juice Box Bully” to every class and then ask students to sign a pledge not to bully and to speak up if someone needs help. In January, the students assist their schools by organizing student and staff participation in the Great Kindness Challenge.

District-wide participation in this event has resulted in Riverhead becoming a Kindness Certified School District by the worldwide organization, Kids for Peace.

“The Peacemakers at Roanoke Avenue have been an invaluable club that sets a positive, caring tone in our building,” Payton said. “The students learn the value of choosing kindness and they spread that message throughout the building during the school year. This message of kindness is highlighted during our annual Great Kindness Challenge where all students engage in acts of kindness throughout the week.” 

Phillips Avenue principal Deb Rodgers agrees. “The Peacemakers at Phillips Avenue have provided our students with an opportunity to lead by example,” she said. “They have helped transform the culture of our school to be more welcoming, accepting and safer for all students and families.”

Members of the Phillips Avenue Peacemakers were thrilled about receiving this national recognition.

“It feels good because we earned this by participating in the Great Kindness Challenge and practicing kindness,” said Jefferson Ajcuc Arevalo. “The Peacemakers feel like a family.”

“We’ve all been working hard practicing kindness by doing things like secret kindness missions,” said Olivia Capobianco. “The best reward is seeing all of the smiles afterwards.”

“We are making a change in the world for kindness and peace,” said Sofia Reusch.

“Our Peacemakers make it possible for us to achieve these positive outcomes in our school through their energy, and dedication to our mission,” Kutner said. “We are lucky to have so many wonderful intelligent, caring youth here. This is Riverhead!”

Source: Riverhead Community Awareness Program press release.

This story is free to read thanks in part to the generous support of readers like you. Keep local news free. Become a member today.